I have the privilege of being able to call Craig Jutila (and his wife Mary) a colleague, a mentor, and a good friend. For those of you who don’t know, I was a children’s pastor for over 10 years and everything I knew, I learned from Craig. Of all the things that Craig taught me, the one thing I respect the most is to be ready to make the tough choices that keep your marriage and your family your top priority. It’s my privilege to introduce you all to my friend:
How do you feel when you are with your spouse? Do you feel like you are on the same wavelength? Or do you feel like you are on parallel train tracks traveling at different speeds and with different destinations? Mary and I have felt that way at times. A subtle disconnect would develop over time if we simply left our relationship up to chance.
One of the things we learned while in counseling was to spend time every year reviewing our marriage. Jim, our counselor, would give us homework from time to time. After one particular session he told us to go on a date and review our marriage. What? Was he serious? Yes he was. Honestly, we had never done that before, at least not formally.
He told us to put it on the calendar, go on the date, write down our answers. He told us to set another date, six months later, and then pull out our answers to those questions and review them. He then told us something that has stuck with us over the last several years. He said, “It’s not an accident when things are going badly, and it’s not an accident when things are go ing well.”
He told us to answer these three specific questions in regard to our relationship and marriage.
1. What was negative and upside down in the past?
Here is an example of Mary’s answer from 2007. “I didn’t feel loved and valued by Craig. We had no real family time. We didn’t know how to share our feelings. Craig was not home and was overworking and when Craig was home, he was not present with us.”
Do you think that was hard to hear? You’re right, it was. Here’s my question for you. Would you rather be hurt with the truth or happy with a lie? Review your past so you can set intelligent goals for the future.
2. What is positive and going well now?
Fast forward 6 months. What is positive and going well now? Here is an example of Mary’s answer. “Mary feels loved and valued. There are more flowers and notes. Craig wants to be at home. We are talking more to each other about how we feel. There is more time spent with the whole family.”
3. What do we want to do, build or add to our relationship?
We both said, “Go to a marriage conference together. Read a marriage book together. We will have a date night once a week. Consistent monitoring of our family schedule for healthy family balance.”
It’s important to live intentionally in our marriage! It’s the principle of drift. If you are in a boat and don’t have a paddle you are subject to the current and the current isn’t healthy. You always drift into unhealthy behavior, you never drift into healthy behavior, you have to paddle there. I guess another way to say it is, “If you are coasting in your marriage, then you are going downhill.”
We left our marriage up to chance for quite a while and it’s not a healthy choice to do so. By asking and answering these three questions with your spouse you are taking intentional steps to have a healthy marriage.
Craig Jutila is the President of Empowered Living, Inc. and author and communicator.
Craig and Mary’s most recent book, “From Hectic to Healthy: The Journey to a Balanced Life.”